BEIRUT - Rebels in Syria's Golan have posted a new video online showing four Filipino UN peacekeepers they abducted earlier this week, with the men apparently unharmed, restating that their action aimed to protect the soldiers.
"The Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade's leadership announces it is responsible for saving four members of the UN force from an area of battles pitting (rebel) brigade members against criminals from gangs loyal to (President Bashar al-) Assad," an unnamed spokesman said in the video.
The rebel stood as he read his statement, while the four Filipinos sat on chairs in front of him. They appeared unharmed.
Deployed to observe the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights, the four UN troops were patrolling in the Jamlah locality when they were abducted on Tuesday.
The goal behind the abduction "was first of all aimed at ensuring the soldiers' safety", said the rebel spokesman. "Secondly, so that members of criminal (pro-Assad) gangs do not seek refuge with them."
It was the second time the rebels release a video showing the four men.
The Philippines said Friday it may quickly withdraw its more than 300 troops from the peacekeeping force in the Golan because of security concerns, following the second such incident since March.
"The people that abducted our peacekeepers were actually under siege and they are using our people to get themselves out of the situation they find themselves in," said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
For three days in March, 21 other Filipino peacekeepers were held by Syrian rebels from the same insurgent group.
The ceasefire line has seen increased hostilities from the two-year-old Syrian war that has cost more than 70,000 lives, with shells from the Syrian side hitting Israeli-held territory and the Israeli military firing back.
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